US authorities arrested and charged 36-year-old Larry Harmon from Ohio. He is accused of organizing the work of the Helix cryptocurrency mixer service, which operated on a darknet and helped criminals to hide the origin of transactions with bitcoins. Such services help “confuse traces” by turning a simple transfer of funds from one account to another into a complex scheme: instead of one transaction, the service breaks down the required payment into hundreds or thousands of small transfers that are sent to different accounts and go through many wallets before reaching the goal .
“The only purpose of Harmon’s operations was to hide criminal transactions on the darknet from law enforcement agencies, but thanks to our growing experience in this area, he was not able to keep his promises,” reads a press release from the Justice Ministry.
According to law enforcement, Helix was just a minor project for Harmon related to its main Grams service, a search engine that indexed many drug-related marketplaces on the darknet. Grams allowed users to search for drugs and find the best deals. Helix, in turn, was only an addition and offered potential buyers a way to hide their identity when buying.
The Justice Ministry reports that Harmon managed Helix from 2014 to 2017, and through his service 354,468 bitcoins were laundered, whose value at the time of the transaction was about $ 300 million, and today it is already approaching $ 3.5 billion.
As the service developed, Harmon collaborated with other services on the darknet. In particular, according to the indictment, he worked with the largest trading platform of the time, AlphaBay, and AlphaBay recommended Helix to its users as a safe and reliable mixer service for bitcoins.
For all operations Helix Harmon charged a fee of 2.5%. As a result, law enforcement agencies are now trying not only to put Harmon in jail, but also to confiscate from him three real estate objects that the suspect bought with funds of illegal origin.
The case brought against Larry Harmon is the first time that the US authorities have begun to pursue the mixer service.
Let me remind you that in 2017, one of the largest and most popular at that time mixer services in the world, BitMixer, unexpectedly announced the termination of work. This happened shortly after the law enforcement authorities closed AlphaBay and Hansa marketplaces, as well as after the arrest of Alexander Vinnik and leaving BTC-e offline. In their farewell message, BitMixer administrators wrote that such services are always popular among cybercriminals and noted that “very soon, such activities will be regarded as illegal in most countries.”